It’s alive! Alive! (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 19)

It's alive! Alive! (1)

There is no blog post today, and the reason is very simple – this weekend I have two sessions on IATEFL in Gdańsk, Poland, so I’m preparing my presentations, materials, looking for appropriate outfits… so much to do that I have to skip this week on my blog.

But I’m alive! And more than that – I even went live once, so what you can do today is actually watch my first workshop on RPG in teaching ever – it was recorded last year, on Zlot Nauczycieli Angielskiego. I talked about RPGs, showed some easy exercises and was terribly stressed!

It’s funny, watching myself only a year ago and seeing how much I’ve changed. What exactly changed? Well, you can see it if you come to my sessions, this weekend in Gdańsk.

Meanwhile – Role-Playing Teaching: Madness is Magic. Enjoy!

Dice rolling against teen angst! ( Role-Playing Teaching: Part 18)

Dice rolling against teen angst!

In my Role-Playing Teaching section I have already written about RPGs and their positive influence on children and adults – it’s high time to write about teenagers. This article may come as the last in the series, but for me they are a group that may benefit most from using RPGs in their educational process, or simply benefit from playing RPGs. Believe me – I was such a teen.

And weren’t I an angsty one…

Looking at the areas that RPGs address, it may be somewhat surprising that they are covering the areas known as 21st century skills – and yet, this is so. Playing RPGs in English may not only help teenagers progress in their English studies, but also help them develop other skills they will certainly use as adults.

Teamwork

We live in the age of individuals – sounds trivial, but that’s the truth. That’s why the importance of teamwork is even greater, and learning teamwork while having fun is the best way of learning one’s leadership skills, the ability to discuss things, ways to convince others to change their perspective. I can’t think of a better way to develop skills helpful in successful working with others than cooperating with friends trying to achieve common goal.

Creativity

In games, we can have a lot of adventures and challenges that don’t often happen in a real world, and unconventional problems require unconventional solutions. This calls for the power of creativity, and working on creative methods with a bunch of friends (who share the same goal) is like connecting a little power-plant to the brain. A good RPG session makes you feel happy, refreshed and ready for the next challenge!

Problem solving

Creativity results in many interesting solutions to problems arising throughout the adventure. This leads to many heated arguments and passionate discussions as players usually want to push their idea as it, obviously, is the best idea. This is a perfect lesson of negotiation, cooperation and responsibility – because if your plan, designed to be perfect, turns out to be a failure, you’ll have some explaining to do; which is great as it teaches you to think broader and listen more attentively.

Communication

Naturally, not all communication focuses on conflicts and problem solving. Usually players are a bunch of friends, but as the time in game runs faster than in real life and there are some objectives to be achieved, players need to communicate both in-game and out of it. It usually means either asking for advice – which turns out to be somewhat difficult for teenagers, but not as difficult as asking for help, and that’s something RPGs teach you as well.

And who knows, maybe this is the most powerful thing you learn…

Feedback

There are people who can skilfully give feedback, but for most of us it’s an art that is quite hard to master. Playing RPGs gives you great opportunities not only to listen to feedback of other players, but also share yours. The good thing is that you share feedback with people you like and who like you, you learn which expressions may be hurtful and how to speak criticism so that nobody gets hurt.

Friendship

Last but not least, friendship – which is magic, obviously. Fantasy fans create a sociocultural group called fandom. But within this huge group there are smaller ones – some encompass your favourite systems, some include people that share your sense of humour, and if you’re willing to open up a bit and travel to a nearby convention or two, you’ll find people that become your kin: people who are like your family – not always your best friends, but always there when you need them.

Like the girl who answered my phone at 2 a.m.
and let me spend the night at her place.

And this is something teenagers need, a sense of belonging somewhere, identifying with a group – and if you think about alternatives, kinship with a bunch of people who read books, play games and have fun with one another is not the worst option, is it?

As you can see, there are some areas RPGs may support and develop in our students. The only question is – which system would they pick as there are oh! so many.

Enjoy!

Roll your summertime with kids! (Role-Playing Teaching: Part 16)

Roll your summertime with kids!

Last time when I wrote about Role-Playing Games, I wrote about a great game for children, Bumbleberry Forest. I focused on more educational aspects of this system, so today I want to give you some reasons why playing RPGs with children may be a great idea for everyone involved – especially now, with summer break approaching.

Family Time

If you’re Polish you may visit a group on FB called “Mamo tato zagrajmy w RPG”, for parents playing RPGs with their offspring – you will learn far more on the subject there. It’s a lovely group full of genuinely nice and supportive people, and if you can’t speak Polish, you may try using English – they’re all quite familiar with it.

You will learn how great RPGs may be when it comes to building and maintaining relationships – not only between parents and children, but also between siblings, which may be a solution to constant quarrels. After all, having arguments with your ally is different than telling off an annoying younger brother, isn’t it?

If you’re a parent, do consider RPGs as an idea for family fun during rainy summer days, long trips or simply long and lazy afternoons!

Friendship (is magic)

One of the universal truths of the world is simple: you must gather your party before venturing forthAt the risk of repeating myself I say – nothing builds friendships better than a common quest, a party of people you have fun with and, naturally, challenges which make you rely on your teammates. RPGs have it all – and more. Players will soon share their little jokes, will refer to previous adventures and build a real team, ideally with no peer pressure, only mutual understanding.

RPGs are a great way to make children build healthy relationships, trust others and get self-confident. Naturally, we talk about kids here, so they need to be supervised, however, building of team spirit is easier than in sports: in sports there’s usually someone better and someone worse, and in RPG, in an imaginary world, we are all who we want to be.

And even when we fail, it’s because of the silly dice!

Never stop learning questing!

We all know about natural childlike curiosity – children ask questions and are interested in everything until they go to school. Fortunately, it isn’t a case with RPGs, where the heroes never just learn – they embark on a quest to gain the knowledge! And the knowledge isn’t easy to get, oh no! There be dragons, and monsters and all beasties possible guarding this powerful treasure.

And the treasure itself may be a magical phrase in English that make people do something for you (pretty please), a recipe for favourite cookies (something that needs to be immediately tested!), a mathematical formula that will reveal a path to wisdom required to understand a spell… Once you do this little mindshift and show knowledge as what it really is – priceless treasure, your kids will stay curious at least a while longer.

Self-development

A friend of mine works as a teacher assistant for the kids with SEN. She’s an avid RPG player and decided to introduce a simple adventure to her small group of kids. She was eager to try, but she was also slightly worried about one of the kids who’s autistic and not yet ready to communicate. To her surprise, he started not only to answer her encouraging conversation starters, but he also started to initiate the conversations himself! For him, small talk itself is a waste of time, but he realises the importance of small talk in the context of obtaining the information to complete the adventure, his mission.

In her absolutely brilliant book „Superbetter”, Jane McGonigal says that scientific research corroborates the theory that games provide more than just sheer enjoyment – they provide models of better selves. What is more, she says, while we play, we focus on the game, giving it so-called flow of attention, a state of being fully absorbed and engaged, the state of total immersion in the game. It helps people literally feel better, make one’s brain relax and achieve the same results as training of mindfulness.

I don’t want you to encourage children to play games to become better selves, but think of it as added value – all you do is have fun with kids, and at the same time they grow, develop their soft skills, build relationships, learn how to deal with challenges and how to cope with failure…

Not bad for a game, is it?

7 Free Online Courses in June

7 (1)

Are you already getting ready for your summer break? Gentle wind on a sandy beach, scorching sun in the mountains and nothing, absolutely nothing to do with teaching, school and EFL? If yes, please continue your bliss, but if you ever feel like there’s something you should do apart from relaxing, maybe a short online course or two… Well, here I am, ever-watchful! I’ve found seven nice and free courses that may be quite interesting for teachers… even those ready for their summer break!

1 Language Assessment in the Classroom by the British Council

Start: 03/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone interested in understanding how language assessment works

Assessment is something a lot of teachers struggle with – from test preparation to evaluation. Fortunately, British Council has a great course, which will help you learn theoretical aspects of assessment, and then adjust it to your purposes. You will focus on practical ways of assessing language and skills which you can use in your classroom, but more than that, you will have an opportunity to swap ideas with fellow participants and receive professional guidance from course moderators (something BC is really good at!).

2 Our Solar System and Beyond: Teaching Primary Science by the Royal Observatory at Greenwich

Start: 3/06/2019

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: primary school teachers who have an interest in expanding their knowledge of space

Before you shrug the idea off, think about it: imagine your EFL classes enriched with real-life knowledge you’ll acquire with the real astronomers at the Royal Observatory Greenwich! Wake your childlike curiosity up and explore space… and various resources for your primary science lessons. You’ll explore digital resources, museum tips, video chats and podcasts, and find out what works best for your students. Your EFL lessons will be just cosmically amazing!

3 Improving Your Study Techniques by the University of Groningen

Start: 3/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone involved in the learning process

I’m afraid to admit, I’d have probably taken over the world already, if it wasn’t for procrastination. Do you know the phrase “Procrastinators, unite! Fighting tomorrow for better today…” – that might be my motto. And with so many distractions like Facebook or IM… it’s quite difficult to focus on actual learning (one needs to study strategies in order to take over the world!). If you (or your students) experience similar issues, that may be a great course for us! During the course you will reflect on procrastination and motivation, learn how to design a study plan and actually organise your educational life for the better.

Only you or your students best focus on conventional subjects, leave world domination to me.

4 The Art of Teaching Foreign Languages to Young Learners by Universidad Nacional de Córdoba

Start: 10/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people interested in teaching foreign languages to young learners

If you’re a rookie teacher, or even an experienced lecturer who’s going to start teaching young learners, this may be a good course for you. The course will take you through the basics of methodological approaches to teaching kids, you will also learn about developmental stages of kids and young teenagers. If you feel stressed when you think about teaching kids, you should find this course – and the discussions – particularly interesting.

5 Introduction to Cybersecurity for Teachers by the Raspberry Pi Foundation

Start: 24/06/2019

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: teachers interested in cybersecurity

We all know we all need to be careful in the Internet – students and teachers alike. It was proven that younger generation, called “digital natives”, happen to be too careless – they treat the Net as their safe haven, which couldn’t be further from the truth. This course will help you not only be more sensible when it comes to your security, it will also help you design actual cybersecurity classess. You will explore malware, malicious bots, SQL injections, and physical threats to data. You will also build your knowledge of the different tools that protect data and websites – strong passwords, biometrics, two-factor authentication, and firewalls.

6 Teaching English: How to Plan a Great Lesson by the British Council

Start: 24/06/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: English language teachers worldwide

Having a well-prepared lesson plan is a great beginning of a successful lesson. This course will help you look at various professional practices, share your own teaching experiences, and apply what you’ve learnt to your own teaching practice. If you feel like you might need some guidance with regards to classroom management and keeping your students engaged with your teaching methods – that’s the course for you!

7 Languages?

If you really think of going on holidays, you may be interested in learning some basic expressions in foreign languages that may prove really helpful.

There is still time to enroll in a course where you’ll learn the most important expressions – and who knows, maybe you’ll decide to develop your skills in more than one foreign language?

You may participate in basic Spanish classes here.

You will find a basic Italian course here.

I hope you’ll enjoy the courses – they look really interesting, and I guess it’s never too late to learn something new, even during summer break!

Have fun!

Public speaking for teachers? Why not? (book review)

Why would teachers learn about public speaking_

There is only one excuse for a speaker’s asking the attention of his audience: he must have either truth or entertainment for them.
― Dale Carnegie, The Art of Public Speaking

At the moment I’m writing this very note and watching Kung Fu Panda, which is one of my favourite films about being a teacher. True, it may seem a bit unusual source of inspiration, but this is the way I live – looking for inspiration in various places. There may be ever so many materials designed for teaching English as a foreign language, and yet I still enjoy using alternatives that are not commonly identified with teaching.

Like Role-Playing Games, of course.

The main reason I bought Public Speaking for Success was the fact that I’m doing more and more workshops, and I realise I have quite a vast area to improve. Talk Like TED was really inspiring, so I decided to try the book by Dale Carnegie (famous for How to Win Friends and Influence People). To my surprise, even though the book is targeted at salespeople and presenters, teachers still may find it useful. After all, nowadays we need extraordinary means to engage our students.

This book will show you how to make your students pay attention to what you say, to present even the most boring facts in a manner so interesting your students will never forget them (it’s what my interpretation of kraken and zombies did to Present Perfect). You will also read a lot about how famous public speakers of the days of old used to prepare their speeches. And Abraham Lincoln, you will learn a lot about Lincoln (although it won’t be as exciting as Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter which is accidentally quite an interesting book).

Most of the book focuses on speech preparation and its delivery, but each chapter includes some down-to-earth exercises that will help you master public speaking. Following the exercises a reader will be able to practice proper pronunciation, resonance and emphasis (only the reader needs to practice everyday, something yours truly may find quite difficult to do).

The chapter that may be particularly useful for teachers is almost at the end of the book – chapter 14, focused on engaging audience. By the time you get there you will probably think “those ideas are so obvious! I’ve known it all!” – but this chapter sums up everything we really, really need to remember. Concise, surprisingly up-to-date (it’s funny to think, though, that short attention span of an audience was an issue almost 100 years ago…) and useful – something we may read before every lesson to memorise it.

For this reason only, I believe Public Speaking for Success may be also called Public Speaking for Teachers Who Want to Engage Their Students. I’ve mentioned it more than once, every lesson is a story worth telling, and to do so we must be great storytellers not only in choosing a tale, but also its exquisite presentation.

Live an active life among people who are doing worthwhile things, keep eyes and ears and mind and heart open to absorb truth, and then tell of the things you know, as if you know them. The world will listen, for the world loves nothing so much as real life.
― Dale Carnegie, The Art of Public Speaking

Last but not least: you can get this ebook for free! One of the best places on the Internet, Project Gutenberg, offers the ebook version of Public Speaking for Success for free! All you need to do is click here and download your preferable version. Then you may enjoy it as much as I have… only be aware it’s the original version from 1915, not the updated one.

Enjoy and let me know what you think about the book!

Public Speaking for Success: The Complete Program, Revised and Updated
Carnegie, Dale
Publisher: TarcherPerigee; REV and Updated ed. edition (May 4, 2006)
ISBN-13: 978-1585424924

7 Free Online Courses in April

7freeonline coursesin April

April is still a pretty moody month, and the best thing one may wish for is weather that is quite stable. Unfortunately, we’re bound to experience the mixture of sunny and gloomy days, but it’s all good since we know what April showers bring.

Free online courses, of course, they bring free online courses.

Below you will find my monthly selection of free courses you may take online. Hopefully they will let you – and your students, as I found some nice options that may be used as interesting projects – bloom just like flowers.

Kickstart Your Career: Getting Ahead at University by QUT

Start: 01/04/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: students who want to get the most from your university experience

It’s a great idea to use this short course as an additional project with your students who aim to pass their exams and attend higher education. It’s only two weeks, but you may use it as a nice opportunity to show them the merits of self-education and discuss their progress in the classroom. Show them you believe in their potential!

The IB Extended Essay: Managing your Research Project by the University of Leeds and the International Baccalaureate

Start: 01/04/2019

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: students who want to plan and write a successful extended essay

There are more and more students interested in IB as a form of education, and this course will definitely help them most. However, I recommend this course as a little bit of help when we teach our students how to structure their essay, write in an academic style and manage their time effectively so your project runs smoothly. Similarly to the previous course, I would run it as an additional project for more ambitious students. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun – and if your students feel like it, they may still join another course on IB approach.

Understanding Autism by the University of Kent

Start: 01/04/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to learn more about autism

Identified 70 years ago, autism is still a difficult topic for society. We seem to learn more and more about it, and if you work with people you might want to take this course in order to study autism and its spectrum. The course will help you not only study, but also discuss the issues of communication and social relations as well as investigate co-occurring conditions. It’s a great course, especially for teachers of children and young learners.

Caring for Vulnerable Children by the University of Strathclyde and CELCIS

Start: 15/04/2019

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: people who want to develop their career towards child care field

In times of shrinking public services, the task of caring for vulnerable children has never been more challenging. This course will be of great help to all teachers and parents who want to learn more about risk and vulnerability. The main benefit is the possibility of discussing different methods of practice and different possible interventions.

Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching by Lancaster University

Start: 15/04/2019

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: people with an interest in dyslexia and language learning

I have already taken up this course and recommended it months ago, but if you haven’t participated in it yet – it’s a great opportunity to do it now, as dyslectic students tend to underperform in foreign language classes. You will learn a lot of things about dyslexia and its co-occurring conditions. If you’re in need of materials for dyslectics, you may visit a page by my admirable friend Karina Frejlich. She has a lot of materials designed for dyslectic students you may but at the affordable price.

Managing Behaviour for Learning by the National STEM Learning Centre

Start: 22/04/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers who want to work on effective behaviour management in classroom

I recommend this course for all the teachers who struggle with classroom discipline, an issue that becomes more and more problematic. This course will help you observe how your behaviour influences your students’, how you control emotional responses and interact with students. Then, you’ll learn techniques and develop your capability to achieve consistency in managing behaviour, recognise positive behaviour and build trust in your classroom.

Professional Development for Early Career Teachers by the University of East Anglia

Start: 29/04/2019

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: teachers starting out in their careers

It’s a common question once you become a teacher that goes: “now what?”. This course will help you face your new responsibilities and duties. Through the course you will reflect on and identify your professional development needs, explore behaviour management strategies, pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning, ways to prioritise your workload and more. Just like the previous course, I believe it’s a great choice for freshies, but it may be a nice refresher for all of us.

I believe you will find these courses useful both for you and your students. Have fun enjoying longer and sunnier days!